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Rats can be more than just an occasional nuisance, often doing thousands of dollars of damage in a short time.
We home-tested 10 popular models employing different means of trapping and disposing of rats and other vermin, concentrating on effectiveness, ease of use, capacity, and occupant disposition.
Our top choice is the Rat Zapper RZC001-4 Classic Rat Trap, which proved the most effective and user-friendly. Here are our choices for the best rat traps.
Best Overall: Rat Zapper Classic Indoor Electronic Mouse and Rat Trap
More humane than snap traps
Only requires AA batteries
Light indicates if a rat is inside
More expensive than snap traps
Needs cleaning between use
This trap is as antiseptic as it gets, with no tactile or even visual contact needed. Its best feature is the LED light that flashes red when a rat is inside, letting you know it's time to empty the trap without having to look. (Cleaning is necessary between uses, however.)
The purple, tunnel-shaped trap is completely opaque, so you never need to see the results of its use, which it accomplishes through high-voltage shock. You know the job is done when its best feature, a little LED light, flashes red; then, you can empty it without having to look. The four AA batteries (not included) supply enough power to last for 20 encounters, according to the manufacturer, which is great if you have mice issues as well. It also is big enough for larger rodents but is not intended for outdoor use.
While not as humane as a catch-and-release trap, it is a nice option for those who are squeamish or dealing with an army of rats.
Best Budget: Victor Rat Traps
Simple to use
Not always lethal
Can pinch fingers when setting
Victor has been making the classic wood-and-metal snap trap for over 100 years! Inexpensive and straightforward, this is the classic choice for those looking to save money and who are familiar with using the design: You set the bait, set the trap, and wait for the result.
However, the trap can be difficult to set and is easy to trigger, meaning you can accidentally end up pinching your fingers. Also, this trap may not be immediately effective, causing the animal to suffer. And, of course, disposal requires direct contact. But if budget is your prime consideration, we recommend this one.
Best Bait: EcoClear Products RatX Rat and Mouse Rodenticide Pellets
Safe for pets and children
Rats may ignore bait
If you want to avoid inhumane traps or poison, this is our best pick for a nontoxic bait. The manufacturer, EcoClear, says the product avoids unintentional harm to children, pets, and the environment. The bait is specific to rats' unique digestive system and doesn't harm non-targeted animals or pests.
Given its nontoxic makeup, it is safe to use indoors and outdoors. Our testers liked the ability to use it in stables and barns, as the threat to other animals is low. However, this bait is slow-acting compared with the other trapping methods.
Best Glue: Catchmaster Baited Rat, Mouse and Snake Glue Traps
Includes multiple trays
Has floor anchors
Easy to use
Not ideal around kids or pets
Many people seek out glue traps because of their inexpensive price points and because they do not use rodenticides: They just trap the interloper for humane disposal. This is why glue-based traps remain a standard in pest control: They perform exactly as advertised.
Customers liked this model because anchors kept the trap where it was positioned. Each pack in this product contains six traps that are effective for up to one year, offering the ability to use them as long-term monitoring tools to keep tabs on your population.
Best Snap Trap: Tomcat Rat Snap Trap
Easy to use and place
More difficult to set than metal counterparts
Rats can sneak bait without capture
Tomcat is one of the oldest manufacturers in the rodent control market. Their Indoor/Outdoor Rat Snap Traps are ideal when you likely have many rats to contend with and need to set traps indoors and out. Using plastic instead of classic metal allows for more design choice. In this case, that resembles clamping alligator jaws, which are intended to keep rats in place with less chance of escape.
Customers liked the updated setting-up-bait process, which avoided putting delicate fingers in harm's way. (You can arm it with your foot if you choose.) Plastic, which doesn't rust, also extends the shelf life. However, just as in the metal-and-wood variation, sometimes the jaws don't deliver a lethal blow, and the results aren't concealed.
Best Bait Station: D-Con Rat Poison Bait Station
Can hold Norway rats, roof rats, and mice
Can be used indoors
Pet and child tamper-resistant
Can attract unintended targets
Bait is toxic
The d-Con Bait Station trap is entirely covered and is simple to set up. You insert the bait by removing the top latches.
The bait used is cholecalciferol. Pet Poison Helpline notes that this is a type of vitamin D that humans require, rats cannot tolerate in high doses, and can be toxic to dogs if ingested in large amounts. Avoid placing traps in areas where pets play.
Best Multi-Rat Trap: RUGGED RANCH RATTR The Ratinator Multiple Catch Live Rat Trap
Pet and child tamper-resistant
If you are positive you have a rat infestation, a multi-trap is likely your best bet. Customers appreciated that this trap is humane, provided you offer edible, nontoxic bait. A spring floor causes the door to close behind trapped rats. The Ratinator is tamper-resistant, making it ideal for households with pets and children.
Made of plastic, the trap weighs less than other metal humane traps (9 pounds), making it easier to transport over large distances and set up. While not as sturdy or cost-effective as metal traps, it is a great option for those trying to trap more than one rodent.
Best Humane: Gingbau Humane Live Mouse/Rat/Chipmunk Trap
Simple to set up
Easy to clean
Safer for children and pets
Hard-to-remove bait container
Trigger doesn't always engage
A close second to our overall best pick, you can catch rats, squirrels, and even chipmunks without killing them using the Gingbau Humane Rat Trap. Once baited, the outdoor traps lure your target in, and a pressure-sensitive panel triggers the door to close and lock. All you do then is release the captive.
Since the Gingbau uses no poisons, electronics, or snaps, it's ideal for households with curious small children or pets. The trap is also sized appropriately, so small dogs or cats aren't mistakenly incarcerated! Customers love that not only is this trap humane, but it also prevents escape until you open the door, putting you more in control of your rodent situation.
Best Repellent: Rodent Sheriff Ultra-Pure Peppermint Spray
Also repels ants and raccoons
Safe for children and pets
Little research on oils
Hard to check performance
Initially, we scoffed at the idea of using something as simple as peppermint oil as a rat deterrent. All-natural, you can apply this spray anywhere, from garages to attics, without worrying that pets and children will accidentally ingest it. Rodents, like many other pests, tend to find strong-smelling plant oils displeasing, making it possible they will avoid your home.
Customers found that using the trap reduced not only rat populations around trash cans but also raccoons and other nighttime invaders. While this is not the ideal solution in a situation that calls for extermination, a repellent might be an option alongside a trapping program to offer an extra layer of support.
What to Look For in a Rat Trap
The design of the trap directly influences its effectiveness, and so does whether you prefer a lethal or nonlethal option. It's also important to choose one that suits your space, the number of rats needing containment, and the cost. Glue or snap traps might be best for saving money, whereas a bait station might serve someone with multiple rats to remove.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Your choices may be limited by where you intend to use your trap. When using a trap indoors, look for products that are said to be safe for pets and people and are tamper-proof. Glue and wood traps don't often fare well when exposed to the elements and lose effectiveness as a result. Most humane traps, especially those made of metal, are designed exclusively for outdoor use.
Most traps, including snap, glue, and humane types, are set up to capture single rats. You may have to purchase more than one if you seek to control multiple rats. Some traps, especially those featuring bait stations, are designed to handle and trap several rats at once.
How do rat traps work?
Rat traps work differently depending on their types. Traditional “snap” traps employ a metal or plastic switch that trips a clamp-down bar when noticeable pressure is applied. Humane traps also may feature pressure-activated plates, but instead of metal bars, they trigger the doors to close behind the animals. Glue traps are the simplest designs, catching rats walking across the sticky surfaces.
Where should you place a rat trap?
Follow manufacturer directions for location. Keep in mind how visible you want the trap to be. For indoor placement, along floorboards, inside cabinets, or in pantries are ideal locations. Outdoor traps are best suited to stables, barns, or alongside fences or structures.
What kind of bait do you use in a rat trap?
No matter how effective the trap, it doesn't lure a rat without the right bait. Like humans, rats prefer sweet, fatty, salty, non-natural foods. While different types of rats have different preferences, you can hedge your bets by choosing a bait that hits multiple taste profiles like:
- Peanut butter
- Dried fruit
- Hot dogs
- Any combination of the above
Why Trust The Spruce
This round-up was written by Amanda Rose Newton, a certified entomologist specializing in urban and industrial pest management. To best assist inquiring minds, we evaluated traps for the "eww factor" and effectiveness.